Managing Thrips Part 1: How to ID thrip species

Managing Thrips Part 1: How to ID thrip species

This will be a 3-part series. Today we will be discussing how to ID the species and why it is important. 

Part 1: Understand the enemy 

The first step in managing thrips is knowing what species you are dealing with. This will help to understand where the various life stages of thrips reside, the extent of feeding damage that they can cause, the probability that they are disease vectors, and the best mode of action to take to manage them.  

There are over 6000 species of thrips has been identified so far, some feed on fungus, others on plants, and some are even beneficial. The species we will discuss today are plant feeders.  

Take the following steps to narrow down the species? 

Step 1. Research what type of thrips are the most common in your region first.  

Step 2. Ask yourself what crop you are growing and look up which species are known to prefer this plant. 

Step 3. Narrow down the feeding behavior (feeds on flowers, vegetative growth, or both). These steps should help roughly narrow down the type of species you are dealing with.  Onion thrips mostly feed on vegetation while western flower thrips prefer feeding on flowers. 

Step 4. You can take it even a step further by grabbing a microscope and counting hairs on its pronotum and observing ocelli color. Thrip species have unique physical characteristics that can be identified once you know what you are looking for. All you need is a good microscope with 200x magnification. Below we have narrowed the three most common thrips found in Greenhouse crops in North America. Once we know the species we are dealing with, we can narrow down the most effective way to control them. 

If you are unable to ID on your own, we highly recommend reaching out to your biocontrol supplier (GrowLiv Biologicals). We have some great entomologists that can quickly help ID thrips. Alternatively, you could also use the aid of the extension services near you. In Ontario, there is OMAFRA. A group of talented IPM specialists that can help you ID the pest species. There is also a government funded lab, National Identification Service (NIS), where you can ship your specimen for identification. This process usually takes longer and requires you to follow certain practices to maintain integrity of the specimens when shipping. 

In our next post we’ll be talking about preventative actions you can take to reduce thrip outbreaks.  

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Please share similar comparative images of Frankliniella schultzii, Thrips palmi, Thrips parvispinus also

Hareesh MV

do you have photo of Thrips palmi


I had the Entomology Research Lab at our State University, ID the Cuban Laurel Thrips. I live in Vermont and they come up from Florida on foliage plants. Any University should have an Entomology dept. they can send samples to for identification

Lori King

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